Ballarat cancer scientists have bagged a whopping $1 million to find a cure in one of the biggest private donations in our city’s history.
The money comes from businessman John Turner, who moved to Ballarat last year and befriended Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute’s director Professor George Kannourakis.
Speaking at Federation University’s CBD campus on Friday, Professor Kannourakis said Mr Turner walked into the room one day and asked, “what would you do with a big donation?”, to which the professor replied: “how much?”.
“I thought he was going to give us $5000,” Professor Kannourakis said.
“I said, it depends on how much you give me John … if we had $1 million, we’d look at trying to identify proteins cancer patients have and try to look at making antibodies for them.”
It was clear Professor Kannourakis’ ambition impressed Mr Turner and, fortunately for the institute and cancer patients in Ballarat, he had his chequebook on hand.
The money will see the establishment of the John Turner Cancer Research Fund, which will allow for more researchers to be employed and additional laboratory equipment to be bought.
A new post-doctoral fellow, Professor Nuzhat Ahmet, has been appointed and a number of PhD scholarships will be announced in the coming months.
Mr Turner said he had looked into many charities and research institutions before deciding where his money would go.
“The professor, he’s such a charming fella,” Mr Turner said.
“I was impressed Ballarat has such a highly technical facility.
“But, as good as it is, more is needed for additional equipment and staff in order to realise a cure for cancer.
“I met with the professor where he detailed his vision, and I became convinced our donation could make a material difference to cancer research in Ballarat.
“As they say, from small things, big things grow.”
The institute takes its name from Ballarat teenager Fiona Elsey, who tragically died from cancer in 1991.
Fiona's life was short, but her goal to have a cancer research lab in her hometown has had a profound influence.
In February 1998, the Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Laboratory was officially opened, where Professor Kannourakis has worked ever since.
“The only thing stopping us is funding … but now we’ll be able to jack things up,” he said.